Faced with public outrage after he took a police helicopter for a ride from Skopje to Prilep, Zoran Zaev tried a number of ways to deflect. First he came up with the explanation that the pilots have a mandated number of hours they need to spend in the air each month, and would have flown empty if it weren’t for his wish to use the helicopter for a visit to Prilep.

But many in the public square called him out for not using the helicopter for medical emergencies, of which there are many every day – if the crew had to be in the air anyway.

Zaev then insisted that it is cheaper to use a helicopter than an official vehiche with escort. Another excuse which few are buying. And finally, during a TV interview this evening, he claimed that former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski also used official helicopters to go to Greece on private business, but that nobody objected to this. Gruevski quickly responded with a one sentence Facebook post – “I’ve never flown in a helicopter in my life”, revealing Zaev’s latest spin as a lie.

While giving the latest excuse, Zaev revealed that this is the third or fourth time he took an official helicopter for a ride. Zaev is known for joyrides with his retinue of ministers – mostly using motorcycles and all terrain vehicles. This is partly why the helicopter ride – while maybe explicable for a busy head of Government, is seen in the public as another of his stunts.